A powerful explosion tore through a building in central Paris on Saturday, killing two firefighters, injuring dozens of people and causing extensive damage to nearby buildings, officials said.
The explosion came with the city on edge during the latest “yellow vest” anti-government demonstrations, which have often degenerated into violence and vandalism in Paris and other cities in recent weeks.
“It happened when there were people in the street, and firefighters inside,” Castaner said.
Around 100 police officers blocked off several streets in the area, home to restaurants and tourist attractions including the Musee Grevin wax museum and the popular Rue des Martyrs.
Besides the two dead firefighters, 47 people were injured in the blast, 10 of them seriously, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
The explosion occurred shortly after 9:00 am (0800 GMT) in building that housed a bakery as well as a restaurant on the ground floor in the Ninth Arrondissement.
The shockwave was felt as far as four blocks away, Commander Eric Moulin of the Paris fire service said, adding that rescuers were still searching for other victims.
Dozens of tourists, suitcases in hand, were evacuated from the many nearby hotels in the area, a popular weekend shopping destination for locals and visitors alike.